This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of July 21, 2014. To subscribe (free!), click here.
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of July 21, 2014. To subscribe (free!), click here.
Oh, there are complicated issues. We did a deep dive into how the “costs” of legislation should be calculated last week. This time let’s keep it simple.
Here are all the bills the House plans to debate next week (along with the sponsor and committee that considered them). If you click on the links and vote “Yes” or “No” on the bills, that will signal to other Americans what you think should happen. You just might convince others, and Congress just might recognize what public sentiment is.
Check back later in the week and see whether others agreed with your vote!
H.R. 4450 – Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014 Act, as amended
(Sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) / Energy and Commerce Committee)
H.R. 4802 – Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2014 (Sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) / Homeland Security Committee)
H.R. 1022 – Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act of 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
H.R. 3802 – To extend the legislative authority of the Adams Memorial Foundation to establish a commemorative work in honor of former President John Adams and his legacy, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) / Natural Resources Committee)
H.R. 4508 – To amend the East Bench Irrigation District Water Contract Extension Act to permit the Secretary of the Interior to extend the contract for certain water services (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) / Natural Resources Committee)
H.R. 4562 – To authorize early repayment of obligations to the Bureau of Reclamation within the Northport Irrigation District in the State of Nebraska (Sponsored by Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) / Natural Resources Committee)
H.R. 4411 – Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) / Foreign Affairs Committee)
H.R. 4983 – Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) / Education & the Workforce Committee)
H.R. 5116 – To direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to train Department of Homeland Security personnel how to effectively deter, detect, disrupt, and prevent human trafficking during the course of their primary roles and responsibilities, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) / Homeland Security Committee)
H.R. 4449 – To amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to expand the training for Federal Government personnel related to trafficking in persons, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) / Foreign Affairs Committee)
H.R. 3136 – Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act of 2013, Rules Committee Print (Sponsored by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) / Education & the Workforce Committee)
H.R. 4984 – Empowering Students Through Enhanced Counseling Act, Rules Committee Print (Sponsored by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) / Education & the Workforce Committee)
H.R. 4935 – Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014, Rules Committee Print (Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KY) / Ways & Means Committee)
H.R. 3393 – Student and Family Tax Simplification Act (Sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) / Ways & Means Committee)
Possible: H.Con.Res. 105 – Directing the President, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove United States Armed Forces, other than Armed Forces required to protect United States diplomatic facilities and personnel, from Iraq (Sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) / Foreign Affairs Committee)
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of July 14, 2014. Subscribe (free!) here.
Senate candidate Monica Wehby (R) recently used information from WashingtonWatch.com to argue a point in her campaign to unseat incumbent Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (D). PolitiFact Oregon called her statement false, but they got it wrong. Wehby was pretty much right. There’s nuance to understand. Read on…
Wehby, the Portland pediatric neurosurgeon challenging Merkley, described Merkley’s vote in favor of S. 1769, the Rebuild America Jobs Act (112th Congress) as “typical of a Washington insider like Senator Merkley.” She said she would have voted no on the bill “because this legislation would have cost the average American family $1,000 a year while making no significant impact to fix our infrastructure and roads.”
WashingtonWatch.com was the source of the number that Wehby used (actually $958.40), and it’s a good reflection of the cost the bill would have had if it had passed. But PolitiFact Oregon called the statement false.
To my surprise, PolitiFact Oregon used yours truly as its chief authority on that finding. The report said that I “faulted Wehby’s claim on two counts.”
The first involved the $958.40 figure itself. In reality, [Harper] said, only half of that would come in the form of new taxes. The remainder really doesn’t count since it’s in the form of new spending. And while it could be argued that new spending amounts to a long-term debit, the CBO’s own finding that the bill was budget-neutral negates that point.
I didn’t say or imply to Politifact that spending “really doesn’t count.” It counts. The methodology we use here counts it.
Here’s what I wrote to the reporter:
The CBO score for S. 1769 (click “Read an analysis of the bill” on the bill’s page) shows revenues (taxes – a cost) of about $56.8 billion and outlays (spending – a cost) of $56.5 billion. That made S. 1769 a high-cost bill — it proposed increasing both taxes and spending — but it was fairly budget-neutral, increasing the average family’s share of the national debt by only about $40 per average family.
If Wehby claimed that the bill would have cost the average American family about $1,000 in new taxes, I think that is incorrect. It would have cost about $500 per family in new taxes and about $500 per family in new spending.
Wehby’s claim was not that it would cost $1,000 in new taxes, though, as the PolitiFact reporter said to me in his inquiry. It was that the bill “would have cost the average American family $1,000 a year.” That is a correct number. (The reporter did not catch or raise with me that our net present value calculation produces a one-time cost figure—not the cost per-year.)
While I pointed out that the bill was relatively budget-neutral, candidate Wehby didn’t make any claim about the budgetary effects of the bill. A bill can cost a lot and be budget-neutral. This one did and was.
The second point that the Politifact report attributed to me “was that ‘average families’ would not have borne the burden of any new costs because language in the bill made clear that it would be financed by a 0.7 percent surtax on millionaires.”
Here’s what I said to the reporter on that question:
As the bulk of the revenues would have come from a surtax on people with a modified AGI above $1,000,000, I see an argument that this would not have come from “average families” in the “median” or “mode” sense. But our calculations are literal averages — the arithmetic mean — which is produced by dividing costs among all families in the U.S. That approach makes the most sense for outlays, as funds in the U.S. treasury can be thought of as “owned” by all the people, and expenses should be treated as falling on all of us. The average/arithmetic mean makes less sense when it comes to revenues because they often come from distinct sets of taxpayers, such as the relatively well off.
“It’s up to you,” I wrote to the reporter, “whether you believe it’s expected in the context of Wehby’s statement to get into tax incidence. You can ding her for that omission if your judgment is that it’s something she should have included.”
In other words, I didn’t fault Wehby for failing to discuss tax incidence. The PolitiFact reporter did, falsely attributing it to me. I called Wehby’s statement “accurate” and left the question of subtlety around tax incidence to the reporter.
There’s a real point behind the reporter’s conclusion, of course: It’s an entirely legitimate policy proposal to tax higher-income people and use the funds to pay for road construction and such. But the legitimacy of that policy proposal doesn’t make Wehby’s statement false. It was a correct and literally accurate statement about the costs of the bill.
It turns out that issues around the “costs” of legislation are hard to figure out when a bill has both revenue and spending measures. We’ve given it a lot of thought over years here and come up with a pretty good methodology (explained and caveated at WashingtonWatch.com’s “about” page.)
It’s unfortunate that PolitiFact Oregon is faulting Wehby for making an accurate statement about cost rather than directly raising the question whether Oregon voters would prefer a tax increase aimed at wealthier people.
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of July 7, 2014. Subscribe (free!) here.
If you want to see what’s happened so far, take a look at the chart in our post from last week, “Appropriations Progress!”
The newest bill is H.R. 5016, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2015. Introduced by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), it funds a long list of agencies and activities of government, to the tune of about $415 per U.S. family. Take a look:
Department of the Treasury
District of Columbia
Executive Office of the President (including Council of Economic Advisers, Office of Management and Budget, Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the White House)
Administrative Conference of the United States
Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Election Assistance Commission
Federal Communications Commission
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of the Inspector General
Federal Election Commission
Federal Labor Relations Authority
Federal Trade Commission
General Services Administration
Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
Merit Systems Protection Board
Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation
National Archives and Records Administration
National Credit Union Administration
Office of Government Ethics
Office of Personnel Management and Related Trust Funds
Office of Special Counsel
Postal Regulatory Commission
Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board
Recovery and Accountability Transparency Board
Securities and Exchange Commission
Selective Service System
Small Business Administration
United States Postal Service, Payment to the Postal Service Fund
United States Tax Court
General Provisions, Government-wide
Next there’s S. 2499, the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2015. It would spend about $435 per U.S. family on the State Department—and so much more. The bill was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Here’s the current vote on S. 2499. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article on the bill.
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of June 30, 2014. Subscribe (free!) here.
Just under the wire!
That’s how the House’s State Department/Foreign Operations appropriations bill came in. It was reported to the House Friday, bringing the House to nine of twelve annual spending bills that have at least been prepared for House floor debate ahead of the July 4th week.
The last several years, Congress has almost always failed to follow the ordinary spending process. In that process, after Congress agrees to a budget, the House and Senate each pass the multiple appropriations (spending) bills that fund the various parts of the federal government. The bills are supposed to pass during the summer, providing agencies in the executive branch plenty of time to prepare for their new budgetary situation when the new fiscal year starts October 1st.
To demonstrate responsible management, the House Appropriations Committee‘s chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said earlier this year that he would move all bills out of his committee before the August recess.
With the State/Foreign Ops bill reported on Friday, he’s gotten most of the bills out before the July 4th holiday. Fireworks! He’s on track.
Below is a table showing each of the appropriations bills and its current status. As you can see, the House has already passed five appropriations bills. The other four listed have been reported—that is, reported by the committee to the full House for debate.
The Senate is not doing too badly, though it’s definitely behind. Five bills have been reported and, in the case of another two, the Senate plans to take up the House bill, which is perfectly fine. (In one case, the Senate has a reported bill but plans to debate the House bill.) The Senate hasn’t passed any appropriations bills yet.
There are gaps, of course. Neither the House nor the Senate has produced a Financial Services/General Government bill. And neither has a Labor/Health and Human Services bill. Labor/HHS is usually the biggest bill of the year (just ahead of Defense), and it always seems to come along last.
Getting the appropriations bills done on time is good. This is not only so agencies can plan for the coming fiscal year, but so that the public has a little more of a chance to oversee Congress’s work. When the bills aren’t done and Congress has to do continuing resolutions and omnibus bills to keep the government running, the public is shut out of what is already a very arcane process.
Click on the bills in the table below to see how much they spend, to comment on them, and to vote them up or down based on your opinion of them. By clicking “Read the Bill” or “Read an Analysis of the Bill” in the “Learn More” box on each bill page, you can access the strange world of congressional spending and see all the different places the money goes…
|Agriculture||H.R. 4800 – debated||S. 2389 – reported|
|Commerce/Justice/Science||H.R. 4660 – passed||S. 2437 – reported (H.R. 4660 to be debated)|
|Defense||H.R. 4870 – passed|
|Energy & Water||H.R. 4923 – reported|
|Financial Svcs/Gen’l Govt|
|Homeland Security||H.R. 4903 – reported||S. 2534 – reported|
|Interior & Environment|
|Legislative Branch||H.R. 4487 – passed||H.R. 4487 – to be debated|
|Military Construction/Veterans||H.R. 4486 – passed||H.R. 4486 – to be debated|
|State/Foreign Operations||H.R. 5013 – reported||S. 2499 – reported|
|Transportation/HUD||H.R. 4745 – passed||S. 2438 – reported|
This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of June 22, 2014. Subscribe (free!) here.
There’s no way a congressional calendar can top a monster truck rally, but the House is certainly taking a run at it, or revving their engines, so to speak. Next week is FUEL week in the House! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!
The House leadership have scheduled at least three bills that deal with energy policy. Let’s run down the list:
First, there’s H.R. 3301, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act. The bill would would make changes to permitting requirements for pipelines and other energy infrastructure at international borders.
In particular, it would eliminate the existing requirement that sponsors of such infrastructure obtain a Presidential permit. Instead, they would go to either the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Energy. Under H.R. 3301, sponsors of natural gas pipelines would not be required to obtain a certificate of crossing. It’s aimed at the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project.
H.R. 3301 has no cost (in dollars, maybe environmental values) per U.S. family. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced the bill.
Then there’s H.R. 6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act. The bill would provide for expedited approval of exportation of natural gas to World Trade Organization countries.
We featured it in an earlier post, “Gas for Europe, Indigestion for Russia.” Part of the idea behind the bill is that it will weaken Russia’s geopolitical position as a major source of energy supplies for Europe.
The bill has essentially no cost per U.S. family. It’s sponsor in the House is Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO).
And finally, there’s H.R. 4899, the Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act of 2014. We’re not sure what to think of that awkward name, but the bill promises to increase domestic onshore and offshore energy exploration and production, and also to streamline and improve onshore and offshore energy permitting and administration. It has typical trade-offs between energy production and environmental values.
That’s the House’s plan for top fuel dragster legislation this week! Start your engines!